Clash of Sovereigns
This is my first fanfiction, but I have done a lot of work trying to edit out any parts I thought were boring or irrelevant, along with any grammatical or spelling errors. However, I have problem with tenses and descriptions, and I gladly accept any helpful criticism you can give me.
Chapter 1: Arrival
Kilgaharrah shifted in his sleep. He dreamt of a time when he soared through the skies, worshipped by the weak two legged race called man. Every summer, tributes would be given to him and his kin; for they were the firstborn of the gods of the Old Religion, and man was merely an accident, born from the common beasts that roamed the lands since time immemorial. Alas, as time wore on, some of his kind began to pity man and taught them the powers of the dragons, and soon man believed they were equals to the great beasts. For a time they co-existed in peace, but that soon changed when King Uther Pendragon lost his wife to magic; a gift given to man by dragons.
His vision changed, and now he saw the great purge in all its horror. Warlocks and sorcerers turned the sky to ice, and the elements were arrayed against the dragons. He saw his kin forced from the sky by the icy air, and watched them freeze to death in the thousands. The dragons made the humans suffer though. They fought back as well as they could, razing town after town with their purifying fires. But men bred like rats, while every one of his kin was irreplaceable. For every man they burned, two seemed to replace them. When at last he received a peace offering from the dragonlord Balinor, he went willing, believing that even King Uther Pendragon was weary of the pointless bloodshed.
How wrong he was.
Uther had fooled the dragonlord into calling him, and the moment he arrived he was bound by Uther's sorcerers. Without his leadership, the dragons splintered as they fought over who would command them. One by one, Uther and his pet sorceress Nimueh hunted them down and destroyed them. When the last of the dragons were no more, Uther turned on his own sorcerers, burning them alive like so many blades of grass in his fear of the unknown.
But men were prideful, and their memories short. Uther believed his victory was complete, and magic was all but gone from the land. Ironically Kilgarrah, High King of the dragons, had the same objective as King Uther; to purge magic from the race of man. Should he be successful, the race of man would be doomed, for neither iron nor steel could piece a dragon's hide and no force on this earth would be able to hinder him.
But how was one to accomplish such a lofty goal? The answer lies with the powerful warlock that would soon arrive in Camelot. Men were often manipulated into thinking that they would be doing what was best for themselves, and Uther's persecution of magic would lead the warlock into believing the dragon was an ally, a fellow creature of magic. It would not be hard to fool this warlock into doing his bidding. Despite his power, he was still young and eager to find his own place in this world. This warlock, this Merlin would be the key to his vengeance, and Kilgaharrah will stop at nothing till the blood of his kin has been repaid in full.
Merlin gazed at the horizon in awe; in the distance he could see the famed city of Camelot, the jewel of the lands. It was said there was no fairer city in the world, and Merlin was inclined to believe them when he saw its towering battlements and the tall stone walls. Here he could find a place in the world; perhaps his abilities would be respected rather than feared like it was in Ealdor.
As Merlin entered the city, he knew something was wrong. The city square was filled with people, and as he got closer, he saw that it was a man, forced to kneel on a stone block. Merlin did not know whether to feel horror or excitement as he got a closer look.
"Let this serve as a lesson to you all, for this man, Thomas James Collins is adjudged guilty of conspiring to use enchantments and magic," proclaimed a tall regal man, wearing a simple golden crown. This could be none other than Uther Pendragon, the king of Camelot.
Merlin reeled in shock as he heard this pronouncement. Magic was forbidden in Camelot? He should have just stayed in Ealdor. He may have been shunned there, but at least he wasn't likely to be executed for his "gifts".
"And pursuant to the Laws of Camelot, these practices are banned by my Royal Command, "said Uther. "I pride myself as a fair and just King, but for a crime this malevolent, there is only one sentence I can pass."
Merlin would have rolled his eyes if the situation was not so dire. If the king was so fair and just, he wouldn't kill people just for being different. As the axe swung, Merlin noticed a slender figure standing at the window observing the scene below. Her skin was as pale as ivory, and beauty radiated from her face as if she was an angel. Her emerald green eyes contained sorrow that was well beyond her years, as if she was trying to contain emotions long buried. For a moment, Merlin was transfixed to the spot by her image, but as the blood gushed out from the dead man's neck onto the cold stone tiles, she turned away and Merlin was bought crashing down to reality.
Uther continued to lecture the cheering crowd on the evils of magic when Merlin noticed a strange woman shuffling through the crowd. She was clad in rags, and her skin was wrinkled and pallid from age. However her eyes shone with fire, and for a moment Merlin felt a bond of kinship. Merlin quickly dropped his gaze when the woman swore to avenge her son before Uther, and before the guards could react, the woman disappeared in a whirlwind of dust, leaving a speechless Uther and several confused guards.
Morgana sat before her mirror, her outwards expression displaying a neutral face, but beneath her calm exterior she was filled with a sense of injustice. It was not right that a man could be executed for the "crime" of possessing magic. She remembered the days when she was a child; her father had taken her on some of his campaigns. The court sorcerers would create streams of fire from their fingertips and send them into the sky, and the enemies of Camelot would tremble at the sight and surrender rather than do battle with an army backed by the power of magic. She remembered her father Gorlois standing alongside Uther Pendragon, crediting the sorcerers with saving the lives of his men. That was before Uther left her father to die on the battlefield, denying him the reinforcements that he promised. She was taken into Uther's care since that day and nothing was the same again. She wanted to love the man that her father trusted with his life, but kept thinking that Gorlois's faith in Uther was ill placed. After all, her father is dead because of his trust.
She got to her wardrobe and pretended to pick out a dress to wear for the feast for the night tomorrow. It was the tenth anniversary of the Great Purge, and Uther was determined to celebrate it with a grand feast. Morgana did not believe it would be proper to celebrate an event that left thousands of people dead, many of them women and children. She wondered what she would do differently if she was the Queen of Camelot, but then crushed those treasonous thoughts quickly; she would never inherit the throne for she had no claim unless she married Prince Arthur. Nothing in the world that could make commit herself to that exasperating man. He was spoilt and arrogant; worst of all, the entire royal court treated him as if he was a god, and he expected her to do the same as well.
Her mind returned to the past. In her mind's eye she could see the court sorcerer dragged screaming from his chamber on the night after the last dragon was slain. Uther had him hung, drawn and quartered and stuck his head on a spike above the main gates. The man had always been kind to her for some reason, willing to set his time aside as she pestered him to do magic tricks to amuse her. His bloated head with flies buzzing around his severed neck was the last memory she had of the nameless sorcerer. Uther had left the head up for weeks as an "example", and only took it down when the stench became unbearable. She recalled her fear and confusion as to why her adoptive father would treat people in this way, but he never gave her an answer. To this day, she still did not understand his hatred of magic, and perhaps she never will.
Morgana turns her head around as she hears Uther knock on her door. She didn't feel like acknowledging him at this time, but he was the king, and she plastered on an expressionless mask as he opened the door.
"Morgana?" asked Uther in a worried tone. "Why aren't you joining in with the festivities?"
"I just don't think that chopping someone's head off is a cause for celebration," said Morgana. "No parent should outlive their child."
"It is only justice for what he'd done," said Uther with conviction in his voice.
"To whom?" retorted Morgana.
"It is the law of the land," replied Uther, dodging her question entirely. "I'd be careful before you question my decisions again."
"The more brutal you are, the more enemies you'll create," said Morgana. "One man can only have so many enemies before he is crushed by their weight."
"I don't fear them," said Uther in a condescending tone.
"Maybe you don't - but you put the rest of us in peril," retorts Morgana. She walks away from the window, leaving Uther to ponder her words.
Kilgaharrah stirred in his cold dungeon, deep in thought. He sensed the warlock arrive mere hours ago, but was at a lost as to how he could bend the boy to his will. The boy was obviously confused about the nature of his powers, but he was stubborn and unlikely to aid a dragon without good reason. Some men desired power, others wealth or glory; unfortunately, Kilgaharrah doubted that the village boy wanted anything that the dragon could offer. He had seen the boy in his visions since birth and he was always one to aid others, even if it did not benefit himself.
The dragon pulled himself away from his thoughts as he sensed the boy enter the physician's room and watched him save the physician from a fall with his powers. Idiot boy, he should have let the physician die; he did not even know the man, why would he save him and risk getting himself killed? It was fortunate that Gaius the physician was also a sorcerer, and would not reveal his nephew's secret to Uther. None the less, only the dragon knew this information, and Merlin did not. It was an unnecessary risk, but one that revealed much about the nature of the boy. The dragon smiled as the beginnings of a plan began to form in his mind.
Merlin was tired already, and it was barely noon. He just saved his uncle Gaius from a fall that would have probably killed him, and all he got was a "thank you", along with several warnings about the nature of his power. He trudged along the rock-strewn path as he ran around Camelot in order to deliver Gaius's remedies. As he reached the training yard, he watched a youthful blond man dressed in the colours of Camelot throw daggers at a manservant holding a target. He stopped to watch, as his legs were tired from walking the entire day. At first, he thought it was all just a game between friends, but soon he could tell that the servant was trembling in fear as the blond man threw daggers that pierced the thin wooden board. Suddenly, the serving boy dropped the target as the dagger grazed his arm and cut a thin red line on his skin. The target rolled along to Merlin, and without thinking, he put his foot on top of the target board in order to stop the cruel game.
"Come on, that's enough," said Merlin in the friendliest tone he could muster.
"What?" asked the blond man. He was clearly annoyed at having his "training session" being interrupted by a commoner.
"You've had your fun, my friend."
"Do I know you?"
"So I don't know you."
"But you called me 'friend'," said the blond man in a menacing tone.
Merlin was concerned now, this boy was obviously used to giving orders, and by the looks of it he was usually obeyed as well. Still, he wasn't going to stand around and do nothing when the serving boy was being so obviously tormented by his master.
"I'd never have a friend who could be such an arse," said Merlin in a smug tone. He smiled as his statement drew a few laughs from the crowd who had gathered to watch their confrontation.
"I'll have you thrown into the dungeons for that."
"Who d'you think you are - the king!" exclaimed Merlin in surprise. He didn't realise knights could imprison people for insulting them, and perhaps the king would not appreciate his men prancing around as if they owned the kingdom.
"No, I'm his son – Arthur," said Arthur, relishing the shocked look that now dawned on Merlin's face. "On your knees!"
Before Merlin could react, Arthur kicked his shins hard with a well executed manoeuvre. Merlin fell to his knees and was forced to stay in that humiliating position by the soldiers that now surrounded him. Arthur then delivered a knockout blow to his temple, and he saw stars before his world faded into blackness.
Kilgaharrah was astonished by the boy's audacity. He stood up for a stranger who he did not know, and had paid the price willingly without attempting to save his own skin. Oh well, if he was the self sacrificing type, then it made the Dragon's task all the easier. Men with Merlin's morals are often believed in a better world for future generations and Kilgaharrah was all too willing to give Merlin a chance to fight for his image of an ideal world.
Now all he needs to do is to fabricate a story Merlin would believe, and convince Merlin to believe that his 'destiny' was to bring peace and prosperity to both sorcerers and commoners alike. He almost laughed as he thought about the word 'destiny'. It is so easy to convince men that their pathetic lives have a unique purpose. The Great Dragon knew differently, and he would ensure that the future would be of his own making. Kilgaharrah focused his essence into a call; it was time to make his presence known to the warlock Merlin.
Merlin awoke with a start. He blinked as he tried to take in his surroundings slowly. He was in cell, where the only light came from the torches outside by the guards. It was damp, and the stone floor was as cold as ice. Nobody was in the vicinity save the guards, but yet he swore that he just heard someone say his name.
There it was again! The voice seemed to be distant but it pierced into his core. It sounded human, but was strangely sad and broken at the same time. Merlin wondered what power could allow someone to communicate through to his mind when he could not even see whatever it was that sent the message. Surely it must be magic, but why would someone risk sending a magical message to him? He was nobody, a boy from a distant village, and probably doomed to rot in the dungeons for the rest of his rather short life after insulting the prince.
"Merlin!" cried a familiar voice. Merlin looked up in and saw that it was Gaius at the door.
"Are you a complete idiot?" continued Gaius in a condescending tone. "The one thing someone like you should do is keep your head down, and what do you do?"
"I'm sorry, "replied Merlin. Despite Gaius's anger, Merlin smiled; at least someone in this world cared about him.
"You're lucky. I've called in a few favours with the king to get you released."
"Oh thank you! I won't forget this," said Merlin with relief. He was surprised his uncle had so much pull in Camelot, but then again, it wasn't as if he was a criminal, and Uther probably wouldn't care too much about a boy his son had tossed into the dungeons.
"Ah well, nothing in this world is free lad, but I'm sure it's a much better alternative to rotting in here," said Gaius with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Morgana listened intently as her maid Guinevere told her about the day's events. Because she was the king's ward, it often meant that she was stuck in the castle for weeks on end, and her only connection to the outside world was through her maid. Guinevere, also known as Gwen, was protesting about Arthur's treatment of some low born servant. The servant had interrupted Arthur's training session and called him an 'arse'.
"It's surprising to see anyone stand up to Arthur these days, "said Morgana with a smile on her face. "Most of them are too busy trying to lick his arse ever since he was proclaimed crown prince."
"My lady!" said Gwen, horrified that she would use such improper language.
"It's true! Ever since the king banned me from duelling Arthur, he hasn't had a real challenge," said Morgana.
Guinevere decided to stay silent for reasons unknown. Morgana hated it when people kept their thoughts to themselves. Just because she was a lady of the court did not mean she would not tolerate people with different ideas; she was not Uther. Her mind drifted back to Arthur and his antics. He was always prideful and arrogant as a child, but he also cared about the people around him. As he grew older however, his ego continued to swell and he started to treat everyone around him as if they were inferiors, just as Uther did today. Morgana tried to imagine the kingdom run by Arthur, but could never get past the image of Arthur crying as she disarmed him in one of their duels. She smiled as she recalled how she told Arthur she would never let him live that day down. As bad as Arthur was, he could never be worse than Uther, and she was certain she still had some semblance of control over him.
Morgana turned towards the window and through it, she saw a boy trapped in wooden stocks while the commoners threw rotted food at him; this had to be the boy Gwen was talking about. She began to revise her judgement of Arthur; if this is what he does to people who call him an 'arse', he might as well be a more immature version of Uther.
"Gwen, see to it that boy in the stocks is taken care of," requested Morgana. "I'll have another maid summoned to attend to my needs."
"Yes my lady," said Guinevere dutifully. "Would it be improper if I asked why?"
"Anyone who stands up to Arthur deserves some respect," said Morgana. She smiled again and she thought how irritated it would make Arthur to see how she cared about the boy who insulted him. This was turning out to be a not such a dull day after all.
Merlin endured the nonstop barrages of rotten fruit and other unsavoury objects for what seemed like hours. Wasn't food precious here? Why would people let them go rotten in the first place anyway? He paused as someone pasted his face with dung. Then again, maybe he should count the rotten food among his 'blessings' for the day.
His thoughts were cut short when he felt someone wiping his face clean. He looked up to see a kind face with a comforting smile.
"I'm Guinevere, but most people call me Gwen," introduced Guinevere. She felt kinship with this lowborn boy who was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Right, I'm Merlin, although most people call people 'idiot'," said Merlin. He was feeling rather ill, but somehow Guinevere's presence seemed to make things better.
"No, I saw what you did. It was so brave," said Guinevere.
"My mother always said there was a thin line between bravery and stupidity, and I think this was probably the latter this time," said Merlin with a smile on his face.
"Well, I'm glad you walked away, you weren't going to beat him."
"Oh, I could beat him," said Merlin in a smug voice.
"Yeah? You think? Arthur's one of those arrogant types who trained his whole life to defend Camelot to his dying breath, and you don't look like that."
"The day Camelot needs Arthur to save it is probably the day it falls," said Merlin with a laugh in spite of his current position.
Guinevere smiled, it was rather rare to see someone who was so open with their feelings in Camelot, and she thought it was a refreshing change from all the people she usually saw at court. Even the servants were usually trying to backstab each other in order to get a better mistress or lord to serve.
"Well, it was great you stood up to him. Everyone thought you were a true hero," said Guinevere with admiration in her voice. "Even the Lady Morgana was impressed with your actions today."
"Well excuse me, but my supporters are waiting," said Merlin as more horse dung was thrown in his direction, narrowly missing Guinevere but pasting him directly on the forehead.
Merlin tossed and turned in his new bed. He was trying to get some well earned rest, but his mind kept going through the day's event. He remembered his confrontation with Arthur, and his time spent in the stocks. At least the day wasn't completely wasted. He gained a friend in Gwen, and even got someone in the courts to notice him. He wondered who this 'Lady Morgana' was; maybe she could protect him from Arthur the next time he decided to make him his punching bag or whatever he wanted to do next.
As he began to drift off to sleep, his bed suddenly began to vibrate with a great intensity. The voice in the dungeons came back to him.
Merlin bolts upright and strained his ears to listen. Slowly, as if in a trance, he got up from his bed and followed the direction the voice seemed to come from. It was almost as if his muscles weren't responding to the commands that he gave them, but somehow he felt that this voice, whatever it was, would be able to give him the answers he needed.
He sneaked through the empty castle in bare feet, making nearly no noise at all. Even so, he feared that the next corner he turned would have guards waiting for him, or worse still, Prince Arthur on patrol duty. Something deep within his head told him this was both foolish and pointless, but he shoved his doubts aside. The voice knew his name, and perhaps it would have answers for him as well.
He stopped as he reached the dungeons. There were only two guards awake at this time, and they were both busy playing dice. Merlin almost wanted to laugh at the security in this castle; Camelot was obviously not used to having dangerous criminals, else the dungeons would not be so lightly guarded. He summoned the power within him and rolled the dice off the table. As the guards bent down to pick up the dice, he pushed them further away. The two guards followed the dice as Merlin bit back a laugh; it was almost as easy as making a kitten chase a string and he wondered exactly how intelligent these guards were. When both the guards had their backs turned to him, Merlin quickly slipped past them into the foreboding cave that waited beyond.
Merlin quickly continued down the long winding tunnel, it seemed to get smaller as he continued and he wondered if he was going the wrong way when the torches to his side lit up. Someone was using sorcery to guide him, and Merlin wasn't sure if he should be afraid or curious. Suddenly he wound up at a dead end, with a black mirror blocking his path.
"Where are you!" shouted Merlin. He was sure the disembodied voice came from this location.
"I'm here," said the voice, and the black mirror fell away. To Merlin's shock, he realised the mirror was the eye of a great beast. A dragon.
Kilgaharrah looked with amusement at the boy below him. How could such a small body contain so much power? None the less, this was the boy, he was certain of it. At last, the instrument of his vengeance was in front of him. Now all he had to do was to convince the boy to trust a dragon; that was not going to be an easy task.
"How small you are, for such a great destiny," said the dragon in the best authoritative voice he could muster. He hated speaking in the language of men, but he had no choice. None of his kin were left to hear his words in the old tongue.
"Why? What do you mean?" asked Merlin, confusion lacing his voice. "What destiny?"
"Your gift, Merlin, was given to you for a reason," said the dragon in a sagely voice. Inside, he chortled to himself. Men are often lost, wanting someone to give them a goal to achieve. They want a reason for everything, never understanding that each being chooses their own path, that whatever abilities they possessed were merely tools, to be used whatever purpose they desire. Still, he would not deny Merlin a cause to fight for, and he was in dire need of Merlin's help.
"Arthur is the once and future king who will unite the land of Albion," continued the Dragon.
"I don't see what that has got to do with me," retorted Merlin.
"Everything. Without you, Arthur will never succeed. Without you, there will be no Albion," said Kilgaharrah. "It is your destiny and Arthur's to forge a fair and just land where both Man and Magic can live together in peace."
"No ... No, you've got this wrong!" exclaimed Merlin.
The dragon frowned. This was not going according to plan. He needed Merlin to support Arthur, for only Uther's son had the ability to finish what his father had started. The prince had a strong will, and should he be turned against magic, he and Merlin combined would have the power to destroy every last sorcerer in the lands. But even now, Uther's enemies plotted for Arthur's downfall; if he dies, the throne would no doubt be passed onto Morgana, the bastard daughter of Uther. The dragon would have no hope of victory if the most powerful sorceress in history sat upon the throne of Camelot. Magic must be purged from the land if he could have any hope of victory, and only Arthur could give him that.
"There is no right or wrong. Only what is and what isn't," said the dragon, maintaining his calm exterior.
"I'm serious, if anyone wants to kill him they can go ahead. In fact, I'll give them a hand," said Merlin stoutly.
"None of us choose our destiny, Merlin, and none of us can escape it," said the Dragon. He had hoped that Merlin would seize his chance for glory, but it appears that this boy was very different from the rest.
"No, no way, there must be some other Arthur, because this one is a complete idiot," protested Merlin.
"Perhaps it's your destiny to change that," said the Dragon. He knew Merlin's desire to use his magic openly would overcome his distaste for Arthur in time; he just had to convince him that his 'destiny' was real.
With that, Kilgaharrah took off, hoping to give Merlin times to digest his lies. Surely Merlin had a tiny spark of pride in him; perhaps he would become addicted to the idea that he was pivotal to the survival of a great empire. If not, Kilgaharrah would have to prey on his other flaws.
Merlin walked back to his chambers in confusion. Destiny and Albion? The dragon made no sense at all. Merlin had always believed his powers should be used for good, but could Arthur really bring about a land where man and magic could coexist? His mother had always told him to follow his heart; he just wished his heart would give him directions every once in a while. With thoughts of a land where he would be free to practice magic, ruled by King Arthur, he collapsed into a deep sleep.
Merlin hurried through the castle's keep delivering Gaius's medicines, he was still tired from last night's events and he wanted to do nothing more than sleep for several more hours, but listening to Gaius drone on about the human digestive system really put him off. Even delivering medicines was a better alternative than to listen to Gaius giving a lecture on the nature of tubeworms. Deep in his thoughts, he did not notice the crowd in front of him part for some important noble till it was too late. He was the only one left in the centre of the narrow street when Prince Arthur, along with his entourage, marched around the corner and directly towards Merlin.
Merlin tried to step past Arthur, but in one swift motion, Arthur stuck his leg out and tripped Merlin, who barely managed to avoid falling flat on his face by using his hands to cushion his fall.
"It's a new day, and I'm feeling generous. If you apologize to me, I might even forget your insults yesterday," said Arthur with a sneer on his face.
Merlin got up and tried to keep going towards his destination.
"Ah, don't run away," said Arthur.
That was it; Merlin wasn't going to back down from this man. If nobody else would stand up to him, then he would.
"From you?" said Merlin disparagingly. "I've told you yesterday, you're an arse. I just didn't know you were a royal one."
Merlin watched as the guards began to close in on him. He then thought of the first thing he could say and hoped he hadn't dug in his own grave.
"What are you going to do - get your father's men to protect you?" challenged Merlin. He felt relief as Arthur waved the guards back.
"I could take you apart with one blow."
With that, Arthur signalled his men to give them both weapons. They were flails, weapons that required years of training in order to not hit your own body, let alone wield it against an enemy properly. Merlin groaned; this was not going to be a good day.
As Arthur aimed the first blow at his head, Merlin ducked. It was just in time, as he felt the air part above his head, the metal ball skimming his hair. That would have been fatal if it connected. Merlin braced himself for the next blow. Just as Arthur brought the second blow down from above he heard a clear feminine voice address the Prince.
"Well what do we have here? It couldn't possibly be the mighty Prince Arthur, trying to cave in the skull of some peasant?" said Morgana. "Are your knights too challenging for you, and so you now pick on an untrained farmer?"
Arthur bristled at her tone, but managed to contain himself.
"This boy insulted my honour, and I thought it would be a good idea to teach him the meaning of respect, my Lady Morgana," explained Arthur in the calmest tone possible. "Not to mention that you have no business walking around the lower streets of Camelot."
Merlin was in shock, this was the lady Gwen served? He always though ladies were supposed to be weak and frail, but Morgana was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She carried herself with pride, as if she thought that she was an equal to all the men around her, if not superior. She moved with grace, but the way she held herself indicated that she had combat training at some point. Merlin had no doubt that she might even be able to challenge Arthur in single combat. He seemed to recall seeing her somewhere, and then he remembered her in the window during the execution. Her eyes were ablaze with mirth now, as if she was enjoying her current conversation. Merlin grinned, maybe she enjoyed riling Arthur up as much as he did.
"You're brawling in the streets with the physician's servant Arthur; surely it brings you no honour if you defeat someone who has never seen a proper weapon before today," retorted Morgana. "As for myself, I am on my way to the markets to personally find a suitable gift for Dame Helen. You haven't forgotten her visit tonight have you?"
Arthur was speechless, and Merlin found that very humorous indeed.
"I shall see you at the feast tonight Arthur," said Morgana. "I'm sure Uther would be very interested in your activities today."
Before Morgana left, she looked right at Merlin's eyes, and he was sure that his heart had just skipped a beat. Arthur saw it too, and it seemed to make him more frustrated that he was before. Without another word, Arthur marched away, leaving a very confused Merlin and a disappointed crowd.
Morgana let the beginnings of a smile form on her lips once she was out of sight. She hadn't been able to have a proper conversation with Arthur for months, and now that she had, she felt liberated. He could never win an argument against her when he was a child, and it seems the same still holds true. As she walked along the stores, looking for precious stones or some other exotic gift, she couldn't help but feel curious about the boy. What man would dare defy the prince not once, but twice in the same week? Perhaps he was simply an idiot with no sense of self preservation. If Arthur was the vengeful type, the servant's head would be rolling across the main courtyard within the hour. As it is, Arthur may be egoistic, but he does not kill someone for standing up to him; it was one of the few things Arthur did differently from his father. Morgana often wondered if Arthur was just a less vengeful incarnation of Uther, seeing as the two were almost identical in personality. Perhaps he would be a different king, but she doubted the barbaric practices set down by Uther would be undone by Arthur.
Her thoughts turned back to the physician's new servant. There was something off about him, and Morgana was curious. The boy did not seem to fear Arthur, who was known as the best warrior in all the kingdoms. What advantage did he hold over him? She allowed the thought to quickly pass her by. Best not to over think it; after all, he could just be an idiot. She walked back to her chambers, still filled the satisfaction of seeing Arthur run away with his tail between his legs; she would never get sick of teasing that arrogant prick.
Merlin continued down the street in a daze. It wasn't often that he nearly gets his skull caved in by a giant metal spike on a chain, before being rescued by a lady. Still, he wondered why she would even bother. His outward appearance was plain and everyone knew he was not of noble birth, but she still stopped Arthur despite him being a commoner. Then there was the moment where he started into her eyes, and he almost thought she her eyes pieced right through his soul, stealing his darkest secret. Merlin shook his head and bought himself back to reality. It would be foolish to assume she cared about him; his mother always told him to stay out of the games the high lords and ladies play as they battle for the throne. No doubt he was just a pawn in their games that he did not understand. With that, he went ahead with delivering his medicines till he saw one of the bottles was meant to be delivered to the Lady Morgana.
Merlin entered the inner chamber of the castle to see Morgana back from the market already, trying out a dress in the mirror. He wanted to say something about delivering the medicine, but somehow no words could come from his mouth. Fortunately, she did not notice him as she slips behind a screen and starts to change.
"You know I've been thinking about Arthur," said Morgana thoughtfully. "I wouldn't touch him with a lance pole. Pass me that dress, will you?"
Merlin's mind was trying to think in overdrive. He could almost hear the gears in his head. She obviously thought he was her maid, which gave him more time to react. A small part of him told him to run before she noticed him; spying on the king's ward was probably grounds for execution in Camelot. Still, he couldn't help but notice how exquisite her silhouette was as he threw the dress she asked for on top of the screen.
"I mean the man is a total jouster; just because I'm the king's ward doesn't mean I have to accompany him to the dance, does it?" asked Morgana.
Merlin was doing his best to try and sneak out of the room, but Morgana seemed to demand an answer to her question.
"Well, does it?"
"Un-uh," said Merlin in his best imitation of a high pitched voice. It was by sheer luck that Morgana did not notice anything out of the ordinary and continued to try out her dress.
"If he wants me to, then he should invite me. And he hasn't. So do you know what that means?"
"Un-uh," repeated Merlin. He was really stepping into dangerous territory now. One wrong step and he might be the next on that stone block.
"Where are you?" asked Morgana, doubt creeping into her voice. She turned around to see someone holding up a dress and assumed all was well.
Merlin was not well at all; he was attempting to hide behind a dress, but somehow could not resist peering through the dress to see what was going on.
"Here," he squeaked, praying that his voice was somewhat similar to Guinevere.
"It means I'm going by myself," continued Morgana with an unperturbed voice. "I need some help with the fastening."
Merlin squeezed his eyes shut, that's it. He was exposed now, and he hoped the Lady Morgana would be forgiving, because Uther certainly did not seem to be the forgiving type.
"Gwen?" asked Morgana. She was now confused and was turned her head to look for her maid.
"I'm here," said Guinevere. She had just entered the chamber and was very confused by Merlin's presence, but she did not say anything. Merlin pointed towards his medicine bottle and Gwen smiled, smoothly grabbed his bottle and walked over to the screen in one fluid motion.
Merlin quickly snuck out of the room after giving the potion to Guinevere. He breathed a sigh of relief as soon as he got out, his heart beating faster than when Arthur had nearly killed him earlier that morning. He didn't think the last minute was any less life threatening either.
Merlin needed to clear his head after his two recent brushes with death. He still had to gather his herbs for Gaius. As he weaved his way through the trees looking for the dratted herbs, he heard the sound of a woman singing. Merlin, unable to contain his curiosity, crept in closer towards the voice. But as he got closer to the lake, he saw the ghastly reflection of the witch at the execution, before realising that the one casting the reflection was none other than Dame Helen; she was the woman who was supposed to sing at the celebration tonight.
Merlin quickly darted behind the trees, aghast at the implications of his discovery. He remembered the words of the witch, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a son for a son!" The woman was going to kill Arthur, he was certain of it. The hardest question remains in his mind however, and he was seriously considering letting the witch succeed after what he had done today. He shook his head and ran back to the castle as fast as he could.
Merlin had no choice but to continue his day. He tried to voice his suspicions to Gaius, who quickly dismissed them as his own imagination. He learned that Gaius had gotten him a job as a server at the feast. At least he would be able to look after Arthur at the feast, and if danger does strike, he could make his decision about whether to save Arthur or not. He definitely did not look forwards to being Arthur's slave for the duration of the feast though.
The night quickly approached and Merlin was astounded by the riches displayed in the hall. Golden tapestries hung from the walls, reminding the guests of battles long past. The shields of the various Noble houses was displayed for all to see high above on the arches of the main doorway, as if reminding the common folk of the superiority of the noble bloodlines. Merlin tried to ignore the flamboyant display of grandeur. The highborn had never cared of the suffering of the common folk, and he suspected the display was there to intimidate the ambassadors from other kingdoms who came to visit Camelot. He hastily went to begin his tasks, but was shocked still as he saw the Lady Morgana walk into the room with the most dazzling garment he had ever laid eyes upon.
Morgana held her head high as she entered the room. She smiled as she heard gasps from the many men in the room. She was even more delighted when she realised that she had rendered Prince Arthur speechless as he looked in her direction. It always amused her how she could have such effect on the men in the court, especially on Arthur. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the physician's servant staring as well. What was he doing here in court? She quickly decided it had to be Arthur, trying to degrade the man who dared to defy him by making him serve the royal court. Seemed like it would be something Arthur would do to get his petty revenge on the poor boy.
She took her place opposite to Arthur. It seems he had not forgotten the events that passed the day before.
"Oh, I didn't see you arrive, Morgana," said Arthur in a carefree voice, as if he was hoping to annoy her.
"Oh, and I didn't notice you were here or I would not have come over, Arthur," said Morgana. She enjoyed bantering with Arthur, mainly because she always won.
"I've got to say that is an absolutely gorgeous dress," remarked Arthur. There was a hint of a smile playing on his face.
Morgana looked at Arthur with mild surprise. It was not usual for Arthur to compliment anyone but himself. He broke into her thoughts by continuing his previous statement.
"Have you seen it? The woman behind you, she looks fantastic."
Morgana smiled. It seems like Arthur was not being magically possessed after all. Well, this was a game two could play.
"Yes, I saw her earlier, she was with that really handsome man."
"Not your type," said Arthur, his voice taking on a somewhat possessive tone.
"You don't know my type," replied Morgana casually.
"Yes, I do. The ones you have to chase."
"No, I like the ones who have to beg," countered Morgana. She always had the final word over Arthur, and if the same held true over the king, perhaps the kingdom would be a better place. She picked up a chicken drumstick, waved it above a lonely mutt that wagged its' tail hopefully as it smelled the succulent piece of meat, before putting it in her mouth. In some ways, Arthur was just like the dog, always looking for her approval. It would be a cold day in hell before she would ever compliment Arthur.
As the feast died down, Merlin was summoned over by Arthur to clean up his dirty platter. Merlin was tempted to let the witch kill Arthur tonight as the prince forced Merlin to watch as he finished of the last of his delicious looking meal. He immediately felt a pang of shame; what sort of man would he be if he allowed someone who was innocent to die just because he didn't like them? His thoughts were interrupted as he saw Dame Helen enter the hall. Merlin watched her every action carefully. He suspected she was here to assassinate Arthur, and it did not matter if he was a prat. He would defend him and damn the consequence, as long as it didn't involve him being executed by Uther for performing magic. The master of celebrations invited the Dame to begin her legendary songs, and she rewarded the crowd with a chillingly beautiful melody.
As the Dame's song drew on however, the room slowly began to decay before Merlin's eyes. He quickly put his hands around his ears as he tried to block out the enchanted song. He saw that the others were not so lucky; they were all now drabbed in cobwebs, deathly still as the Dame drew closer to Arthur. She pulled out a wicked looking dagger and Merlin knew he had to act. He reached inside him to draw on the power he had always been able to command. With one look, his eyes blazed with liquid fire as he snapped the chains holding the chandelier up above the great hall, and it fell on the Dame with a sickening crunch.
Arthur was one of the first to recover, he cautiously stepped forwards and lifted the Dame's cloak, then he drew back in horror as he saw that it was the body of the witch at the execution. Suddenly, the witch opened her eyes, and with her dying gasp, she cast a spell that sent the dagger flying towards Arthur's heart with preternatural speed. Merlin was already running and managed to push Arthur out of the way, narrowly avoiding the dagger himself. The witch gave Merlin a look of pure hatred before her body finally expired.
Morgana stares in shock as she slowly takes in what had happened. One ancient woman had single handed rendered the entire royal guard impotent with her sorcery. She shuddered to think of the countless enemies Uther had no doubt made over the years of the Great Purge. Perhaps they were biding their time, waiting for their king to lead them before storming Camelot en mass. She knew it in her heart that Uther's purge had done nothing but to foster hatred between those with the power of magic, and those without. One day, Uther Pendragon may yet regret his actions, but not before he had torn down the lives of all those around him. Her eyes flared with anger as she thought about how Uther was the same man who sent her father to his death. How many more lives must be lost because of the hatred of one man? Still, he was her father's best friend, and she would do her best to honour his memory. Perhaps Uther could still be turned from his ways before it was too late.
"I warned you, "whispered Morgana. She prayed her words would get through to the king this time.
Uther turns his head to look at his ward. His eyes were filled with rage, as if he could not believe the sorceress had dared to enter his castle.
"He saved Arthur's life. A debt must be repaid," said Morgana out aloud for all the court to hear. Privately she was impressed by the young man's courage. It took a great deal of fortitude to lay down your life for a stranger, and particularly so when said stranger nearly killed him this morning. She smiled to herself. Perhaps the man simply stood up to Arthur because he knew he was the better man.
"No, honestly, you don't have to your highness," stuttered the man. Morgana vaguely remembered Gwen saying that his name was Merlin.
"Oh, absolutely, this merits something rather special," said Morgana. She was tired of all the double dealing snakes and bootlickers in court, it would be nice to have another man with backbone to talk to, even if he was probably going to be a guard.
"Well..." said Merlin hesitantly. Morgana looked at the man strangely. It's not often someone questions a reward. Perhaps he was trying to stay unnoticed, but why would anyone want such a thing unless they had secrets they want to keep hidden? Her mind went over the events again and she tried to figure out what had happened since the feast began. Exactly how was it that he was the only man in court not paralysed by the magical spell? Her mind came to one single conclusion. This man either knew of magic, or was a sorcerer himself. She smiled encouragingly at him. Either way, he would be a valuable addition to the palace guard, and he obviously bore the royal family no ill will if he decided to save Arthur. The only way to defeat sorcery was with sorcery, and Morgana had no qualms doing whatever it took to protect the ones closest to her.
"Yes, you will be rewarded with a job for life, "snapped Uther with anger in his voice. "The job of Arthur's manservant."
Morgana tried to keep a straight face as the pronouncement was made. Surely even Uther would not be so unjust. The man who just saved Arthur's life was to be his servant? Perhaps Merlin would regret his rash actions now. Outwardly she clapped politely along with the rest of the nobles in the room. The only people without smiles pasted onto their faces were Uther, Arthur and Merlin himself. Uther then stormed out of the hall, no doubt preparing to punish the guards who failed to identify the witch; he was always one to blame anyone but himself.
Kilgaharrah could sense the essence of the dead sorceress leaving this world behind. So Merlin truly believes in his destiny then? He chuckled to himself. The great warlock certainly did not have the brains to match his powers. With Arthur's position safe for now, the Dragon began to set his mind onto the next stage of his scheme. The same hatred Uther bears for magic must be instilled in his son, and there was no better way for this to happen than to have his father perish at the hands of Magic. That should not be hard to arrange; Uther had plenty of enemies with magic, and the dragon would gladly aid them in the task. For the first time in a decade, the dragon allowed himself to feel hope. He settled onto the giant protruding rock and slowly fell into a deep sleep.
The banners fly flew proudly as an army marches to war, but it was not the emblem of Camelot on their flags; it was the black banner of the Bloodguard, a red tree on a pitch black background.
The vision flashes and changes to the main courtyard where the sorcerer was executed the day before. The same banner flew here and he saw her; Morgana, Queen of Camelot crowned in all her splendour. The crowds below her cried out with near religious fervour.
Long live the Queen! Long live the King!
Kilgaharrah saw a man besides her, but that man was not Arthur. He willed his mind's eye to fly in closer to get a better look...
The dragon woke with a start, with both fear and anger in equal measure shining in his eyes.
The King was Merlin.
A/N: No, I will not be going over each episode, but I will pick out the ones that I feel advance the plot and character development the most. I'm also biased towards one character, so I will pick the episodes where said character develops the most. Free cookies if you can guess what character I like best.
Major plot changes might happen somewhere along the lines, but I'll try to stick to the show's storyline till I feel that they make someone really OOC and unbearable.
Edit: 19th March 2012 - This is just the set-up chapter! If you thought it was too much like the first episode like I did in hindsight, don't worry because it gets more interesting (IMO) in the following chapters!